Fancy technology in a fancy university

At the moment of writing this article I have been here, in IE university, for 40 days. I have had good conversations, I have had awkward silences, I have had conversations that I find boring and some that I never want to end. I have also had the times when no conversation is needed; it is just good as it is. I believe that those are the moments we are living for. The moments that you don’t need to talk, the moments of purity. And those moments are easy to lose. I have often found myself really happy, enjoying the moment, but when I would look around – everyone has somehow managed to take out their phones.

There are many good things that come hand-in-hand with technology. Let’s admit – texting is the convenient option to inform someone about little things that are not worth calling for. The things we read online can often spark up our interactions with others in the „real life”. It makes it easy to find people with similar interests using social networks. It allows shy and introvert individuals to find a space to express themselves with bigger confidence. And most importantly, it helps us to keep in touch with the loved ones we have left in another city, country or continent.

On the other hand, there is so much to lose. With being online we often lose things that happen in the real life. The land of perfect conversation doesn’t exist, but it could be a better place if we had more of face-to-face interaction. And the unavoidable awkward silence can be an encouragement to raise a new argument instead of getting out our smartphones. I believe that technology is affecting our social skills, sometimes even our argumentation skills as it is possible to find every piece of information online. And it is affecting how we deal with solitude.

If you have gotten this far through this article, I would like to tell you that the point of this is not to judge or try to change the society in IE. The aim is to encourage you to observe – how many times you recognise a situation when more than half of the people are busy with the technology? How often everyone from the group is? It is interesting to see, but very hard to avoid. Trust me, I have tried.

The very last thing – imagine going to a music concert, and imagine watching the same concert live on your laptop. The feeling is not the same, because there is no technology that fully captures what it is to be human. The goal of the usage of technology is not to move away from society – we can ship out sometimes, because we all need to, as long as we come back. Technology is useful to facilitate social processes, but not the reason to move away from them.

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They know what you did last summer

filterbubble Eli Parisel gives an eye-opening TED talk where he explains the concept of a “filter bubble”. It is our personal universe, where we are surrounded by the things we usually click on. It is a concept where we are served with what we usually would look for.  On one hand, it is a comfortable concept – the information gets filtered and we are provided with quick results according to our usual preferences. On the other hand, we are not aware of this process; therefore we don’t know what is taken away from us. This filtering done by internet sites prevents us from getting information about opposing opinions on the topic. This might sound like the classical “I want it because I can’t have it” case, and it might be, I don’t know. But the concept of these filter bubbles is quite shocking and can leave us living in one.

In my previous posts I have talked a lot about how we live at a time when there is enormous amount of information out there. I talked about all three selective processes, but I never realised that we actually live at a time when the selecting is done for us. And it is done according to what we have exposed ourselves to in the past. There is a danger to our online privacy, as we are never really aware to what extent internet gathers our data. As much as technology and innovation is meant to ease our lives, it is also creating scary effects on our personal space.

This summer, I read a book “The power of habit” by Charles Duhigg. It explained the importance of habits in our personal lives, advertisement and management. As well as that, he was explaining how companies know more about us than we can imagine. Duhigg tells us about Target company. They customize the special offer coupons sent to individuals according to their past purchases. The book talks about cases when companies are able to even predict how close the women are to labour to provide them with coupons on diapers and baby clothes immediately after the baby is born without them knowing. An extreme example talks about a case when Target figured out that a high-school girl was pregnant before her father did. (Extracts of the book can be found HERE)privacy_header

As much as we have to worry about our privacy being in danger, we also need to think about the consequences of these online data gatherings. It is easier than ever to become isolated from conflicting opinions. This brings back the importance of offline interactions and real conversations. No technology can isolate us from opposing opinions when engaged in a discussion with real people outside of the world of browsers and double-clicks.